¹⁴As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus (Matthew) sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
¹⁵And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.
¹⁶When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”
¹⁷And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
It’s a small part that we just read, but one that has more to it than meets the eye.
Levi was a tax collector and tax collectors were not liked by the Jews.
They were seen as collaborators, as they worked for the Roman occupiers.
Moreover, they often abused their position by enriching themselves at the expense of their own countrymen.
Mark also calls them in the same breath with sinners (Mark 2:15). Therefore, the Pharisees, who were watching Jesus, could not understand that Jesus could eat with such people (Mark 2:16).
In those days ‘sinners’ were often people who did not adhere to the laws of the Old Testament at all. So this is not about people who accidentally sinned once, but about people who consciously lived continually in sin.
▪︎ And it is precisely such a person that Jesus asks to follow Him (Mark 2:13,14).
▪︎ Such a person may even become Jesus’ disciple. Without any job interview or research beforehand.
That is now the unusual, but also the beauty of Jesus.
Anyone may become a follower of Him. Nobody has to say: I am so bad, Jesus can never love me. Jesus gives everyone a view and perspective.
Levi did not decline this invitation.
He did not feel too proud or too guilty for Jesus.
He arose and followed Him (Mark 2:14).
Now, of course, we shouldn’t explain these verses in such a way that it doesn’t matter to Jesus how you live.
That would lead to unlimited tolerance;
Then there is no renewal to be found in Jesus.
Then He no longer has any real meaning for your life.
No, with Jesus it is true that anyone can come, whatever your life looks like.
And if you respond to that call, then you may “have a meal with Him.” That means that you can participate in the salvation that Jesus wants to give. You may have fellowship with Him (Matthew 26:26-28. See also Revelation 3:20).
Then a lot will change in your life!
Jesus then compares himself to a physician, a doctor (Mark 2:17).
He wants to heal us where our lives have been spoiled by sin.
He can do nothing for those who feel too proud.
The Pharisees felt good and righteous and above the common people.
But anyone who wants to follow Jesus, and learn from Him, is allowed to do so, time and again.
Question for self-reflection:
▪︎ What changes do you recognize in your life?
▪︎ Pray that you may hear Jesus’ voice and follow Him.
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